Unknown to most, the giant clam has become an endangered species due to its only predator, humans. Humans take this beautiful species to eat or use as decorations in their homes. However we have come across a magnificent conservation project run by a wonderful guy called Habib. He set up a project to conserve the giant clams in ToliToli, which is a village in the south east of Sulawesi. He has always known clams are an important role for keeping the reef healthy and clean and is very passionate about protecting the reef. He is now trying to restore clams wherever possible.
For this reason, and a number of others, Habib is an excellent tour guide. He started putting effort into preserving the reefs around ToliToli ever since, after thirty years of visiting the reef, he could not find any of the beautiful clams he used to always see when he was younger. He was so disappointed that he realized he had to do something to protect these wonderful species. He decided to educate the local communities on how important it was to preserve these giant clams. His work with the locals has been so successful that the whole village is included in the management structure of the great clam conservation project. Habib also spoke with a foreign scientist to learn more about how to preserve these beautiful creatures and ended up relocating 8,000 animals near to ToliToli. He then set up some nurseries in front of his house to restore clams in more suitable numbers. It is very easy to see these clams when it’s low tide and snorkeling amongst them is spectacular. There are so many colours. Habib uses these nurseries to educate people on the importance of these great sea creatures and how they will revitalize the reef.
Habib’s home, which is located directly facing the ocean, is also the tour office of Labengki. Labengki is a group of islands to the west of ToliToli, which also has a reef crying out to be protected. Habib has extended his work to Labengki where he educated the local communities as well. He told them to stop collecting clams, fishing and bombing. He also told them to stop throwing their waste into the sea. He actually found a new subspecies here and decided to move 5,000-6,000 clams to the lagoon in Labengki to be protected. Habib has been thankful to have the help from a man called Irwan. They have both put so much effort into this project, which is 100% volunteer work. They have done a great job and have never expected any money in return. They only hope that they can educate more people on how important these giant clams are to the reef. With this in mind they also make sure the area is not bombarded with tourists. After they received status conservation area from the government for Labengki they restricted the number of people going to Labengki at a time. Plus only 10% of the area can be used for recreation purposes and only five companies can rent land for tourism.
Besides seeing the clams visitors can snorkel and dive near the coral reefs, swim in underground caves and in green coloured lagoons and admire the many orchids growing on the rocky walls surrounding the islands (in bloom from around December/January to March). There are some cottages to stay near the coast, or just overnight at a local Bajau village. This place is definitely worth visiting. Come and witness how a wonderful giant clam conservation project is educating people on restoring mangroves and coral reefs, preventing further pollution and promoting education through tourism.